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The INTERNET Database of Periodic Tables

There are thousands of periodic tables in web space, but this is the only comprehensive database of periodic tables & periodic system formulations. If you know of an interesting periodic table that is missing, please contact the database curator: Mark R. Leach Ph.D.

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Year:  1831 PT id = 337

Daubeny's Teaching Display Board & Wooden Cubes of Atomic Weights

The Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, has a display of Charles Daubeny's teaching materials, including a black painted wooden board with "SYMBOLS OF SIMPLE BODIES": showing symbols, atomic weights and names of elements in two columns, and a small pile of cubes with element symbols.

Charles Daubeny and Chemistry at the Old Ashmolean

Charles Daubeny (1795-1867) was appointed Aldrichian Professor of Chemistry at Oxford in 1822. In 1847 he moved from the original laboratory in this basement [in the museum] to a new one built at his own expense at the Botanic Garden. His apparatus went with him and was preserved there. Daubeny actively campaigned for the teaching of science in Oxford and held several professorships in addition to chemistry. He also conducted research on subjects such as photosynthesis.

From the HSM Database (Inventory no. 17504):

DAUBENY'S LIST OF ATOMIC WEIGHTS Wooden panel, black with white lettering, listing in two columns the symbols and names of twenty elements. This lecture board is identical to the table in the third edition (1831) of E. Turner, 'Elements of Chemistry', apart from the atomic weight for bromine. Daubeny wrote a useful 'Introduction to the Atomic Theory' (published in three versions: 1831, 1840, and 1850), the first edition of which also quotes Turner's table. Probably contemporary with this lecture board are the wooden cubes with the symbols for certain elements.

The period from 1810 to 1860 was crucial in the development of the periodic table. Most of the main group and transition elements had been discovered, but their atomic weights and stoichiometries (combining ratios) had not been fully deduced. Oxygen was assumed to have a weight of 6, and consequently carbon is assumed to have a mass of 6.

Daubeny's element symbols and weights – along with the modern mass data – are tabulated:

Symbol Daubeny's Weight Modern Mass Data % error Stoichiometry Error
H 1 1 0%  
C 6 12 -100% factor of 2
O 8 16 -100% factor of 2
Si 8 28.1 -251% factor of 5 (?)
Al 10 27 -170% factor of 3
Mg 12 24.3 -103% factor of 2
N 14 14 0%  
S 16 32.1 -101% factor of 2
P 16 31 -94% factor of 2
Fl 19 19 0%  
Ca 20 40.1 -101% factor of 2
Na 24 23 4%  
Fe 28 55.8 -99% factor of 2
Cl 36 35.5 1%  
K 40 39.1 2%  
Cu 64 63.5 1%  
B 80 79.9 0%  
Pb 104 207 -99% factor of 2
I 124 127 -2%  
Hg 200 200.6 0%  

While quite a number of weights are close to the modern values, many are way out. However, the error is usually a stiotoimetric factor error.


Forty-two wooden cubes numbered 1-42, painted black with symbols for certain elements, compounds or radicals painted in white on the faces, together with the corresponding atomic, molecular or radical weights. The face markings appear in various combinations:

H C P Na Ca° S N K Fe K Na° Cy
1 6 16 24 28 16 14 40 28 48 32 26 48

A typical cube (no. 3) may be represented by the following figure. They present something of an enigma as their faces do not form an obvious pattern. The numbers indicate that there were 42 cubes. In style they are similar to the figures on the panel of atomic weights.

The cubes are listed in Daubeny's 1861 catalogue, p. 11 as: "Wooden cubes for illustrating atomic weight". [See D. R. Oldroyd, The Chemical Lectures at Oxford (1822-1854) of Charles Daubeny, M.D., F.R.S. Notes and Records of the Royal Society, vol. 33 (1979), pp. 217-259.]

This display was spotted by Eric Scerri who was visiting the museum with Mark Leach in 2010.

There is a virtual tour on the museum, and the above display is in the basement.

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